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In the News 11.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 11.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 11.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 11.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Since the establishment of the first studios a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein. As the co-founder of the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, he helped to reinvent the model for independent films, with movies such as “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “The English Patient,” “Pulp Fiction,” “The Crying Game,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “The King’s Speech.” Beyond Hollywood, he has exercised his influence as a prolific fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weinstein combined a keen eye for promising scripts, directors, and actors with a bullying, even threatening, style of doing business, inspiring both fear and gratitude. His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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The Science of Spying: How the CIA Secretly Recruits Academics

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The CIA agent tapped softly on the hotel room door. After the keynote speeches, panel discussions and dinner, the conference attendees had retired for the night. Audio and visual surveillance of the room showed that the nuclear scientist’s minders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were sleeping, but he was still awake. Sure enough, he opened the door, alone.

According to a person familiar with this encounter, which took place about a decade ago, the agency had been preparing it for months. Through a business front, it had funded and staged the conference at an unsuspecting foreign centre of scientific research, invited speakers and guests, and planted operatives among the kitchen workers and other staff, just so it could entice the nuclear expert out of Iran, separate him for a few minutes from his guards, and pitch him one-to-one. A last-minute snag had almost derailed the plans: the target switched hotels because the conference’s preferred hotel cost $75 more than his superiors in Iranwere willing to spend.

Read the rest of this article at:The Guardian

The Science Behind Mona Lisa’s Smile

Leonardo da Vinci liked to think that he was as good at engineering as he was at painting, and though this was not actually the case (nobody was as good at engineering as he was at painting), the basis for his creativity was an enthusiasm for interweaving diverse disciplines. With a passion both playful and obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, mechanics, art, music, optics, birds, the heart, flying machines, geology, and weaponry. He wanted to know everything there was to know about everything that could be known. By standing astride the intersection of the arts and the sciences, he became history’s most creative genius.

His science informed his art. He studied human skulls, making drawings of the bones and teeth, and conveyed the skeletal agony of Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. He explored the mathematics of optics, showing how light rays enter the eye, and produced magical illusions of changing visual perspectives in The Last Supper.

His greatest triumph of combining art, science, optics, and illusion was the smile of the Mona Lisa, which he started working on in 1503 and continued laboring over nearly until his death 16 years later. He dissected human faces, delineating the muscles that move the lips, and combined that knowledge with the science of how the retina processes perceptions. The result was a masterpiece that invites and responds to human interactions, making Leonardo a pioneer of virtual reality.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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The Creator of Bitcoin Comes Clean, Only to Disappear Again

Ten men raided a house in Gordon, a north shore suburb of Sydney, at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. Some of the federal agents wore shirts that said “Computer Forensics”; one carried a search warrant issued under the Australian Crimes Act 1914. They were looking for a man named Craig Steven Wright, who lived with his wife, Ramona, at 43 St. Johns Avenue. The warrant was issued at the behest of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Wright, a computer scientist and businessman, headed a group of companies associated with cryptocurrency and online security. Wright and his wife were gone but the agents entered the house by force. As one set of agents scoured his kitchen cupboards and emptied out his garage, another entered his main company headquarters at 32 Delhi Road in North Ryde, another suburb of Sydney. They were looking for “originals or copies” of material held on hard drives and computers; they wanted bank statements, mobile-phone records, research papers, and photographs. The warrant listed dozens of companies whose papers were to be scrutinized, and thirty-two individuals, some with alternative names, or alternative spellings. The name Satoshi Nakamoto appeared sixth from the bottom of the list.

Some of the Wrights’ neighbors at St. Johns Avenue say they were a little distant. She was friendly but he was weird — to one neighbor he was “Cold-Shoulder Craig” — and their landlord wondered why they needed so much extra power: Wright had what appeared to be a whole room full of generators at the back of the property. This fed a rack of computers that he called his “toys,” but the real computer, on which he’d spent a lot of money, was nearly nine thousand miles away in Panama. He had already taken the computers away the day before the raid. A reporter had turned up at the house and Wright, alarmed, had phoned Stefan, the man advising them on what he and Ramona were calling “the deal.” Stefan immediately moved Wright and his wife into a luxury apartment at the Meriton World Tower in Sydney. They’d soon be moving to England anyway, and all parties agreed it was best to hide out for now.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas

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Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.

Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.

It’s only because of the presence of Europeans from the 15th century onward that we even have terms such as Indians or Native Americans. How these people came to be is a subject that is complex and fraught, but it begins in the north. Alaska is separated from Russian land by the Bering Strait. There are islands that punctuate those icy waters, and on a clear day U.S. citizens of Little Diomede can see Russians on Big Diomede, just a little over two miles and one International Date Line away. Between December and June, the water between them freezes solid.

From 30,000 years ago until around 11,000 BCE, the earth was subjected to a cold snap that sucked up the sea into glaciers and ice sheets extending from the poles. This period is known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when the reach of the most recent Ice Age was at its fullest. By drilling mud cores out of the seabed, we can reconstruct a history of the land and the seas, notably by measuring concentrations of oxygen, and looking for pollen, which would have been deposited on dry ground from the flora growing there. We think therefore that sea level was somewhere between 60 and 120 meters lower than today. So it was terra firma all the way from Alaska to Russia, and all the way down south to the Aleutians—a crescent chain of volcanic islands that speckle the north Pacific.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @novitskaiaa; @novitskaiaa; @wanderwonders

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